Like any other meeting, a sales meeting can be extremely productive or a frustrating waste of time.
I was inspired to write this after reading an article on BRW that was about planning meetings in general. I have followed the 10 steps, expanded on each, and translated them into specific actions relevant for planning your next sales meeting.
10 steps to create the ideal sales meeting
1. Seek input from team members
Your sales team has frequent contact with clients and prospects, and they usually know what clients are experiencing. Don’t miss out on accessing their valuable perspective. In advance of the meeting ask your team what they think about specific issues or agenda items.
Be sure to ask clear questions so you can get direct and relevant answers. And give team members a few alternate ways to reply. For example, let them send you a text, or an email, or record a short video to explain their views.
2. Select topics that affect the entire team
There’s nothing worse than having 10 people involved in a discussion that is only relevant for 3 of them. This can be a real challenge for sales leaders if you manage a team that is comprised of sub-teams, such as internal sales, external sales, and marketing staff.
A better way is to hold a shorter meeting for the full team. During that meeting address the common-for-all agenda items. Then hold short meetings with each sub-team. This not only shows respect for everyone’s time, but it also enables you to address sensitive issues within a sub-group that may be inappropriate, irrelevant, or demoralising for the other sub-teams to be involved in.
3. List agenda topics as questions the team needs to answer
To enable your team to be fully prepared to engage during the sales meeting it is good practice, and good manners, to give advance notice of the agenda items. Even better is to phrase the agenda items as questions, such as:
- “How can we ensure sales reports are submitted on time?”
- “What would be the ideal way to encourage clients to upgrade their service?”
- “What can the sales team do to reduce bottlenecks in project delivery?”
By posing the issue as a question team members can think more clearly about the issue. And it is clear to everyone if you answer, or resolve, the issue at the meeting, which can help the meeting stay on track.
If you run a regular meeting, such as a weekly or monthly sales meeting you may already have common topics or segments on the agenda. In this situation try listing the agenda item as a question under the pre-existing title for the segment.
However don’t become lazy and shoe-horn unrelated topics into the pre-existing agenda segments. Or suddenly add an issue nobody was expecting. Not only will this (usually) be unproductive, it may also breed distrust and suspicion about “what else will appear”. And of course your team cannot prepare for an agenda item they do not know about.
4. Note whether the purpose of the topic is to share information, seek input for a decision, or make a decision
As part of giving notice, and asking for input in advance, it can be helpful to clearly indicate why the item is being discussed. What is the purpose?
If the team know a decision is resting on the outcome of the discussion they may prepare differently, and participate differently, than if they believe it is just for general discussion, or for ‘educational’ purposes.
5. Estimate a realistic amount of time for each topic
How many times have you been in a meeting where the meeting leader (or person doing most of the presenting) says “Where has the time gone! We’ll need to cover these next items very quickly.”
That’s simply a result of poor planning and poor meeting management.
Take time to think through the likely path for the discussion of each agenda item. Allow more time for items that are:
- Or that require discussion to get everyone ‘on board’
If you find you have too many items for the allocated meeting time, that’s great! Make an early decision about which items to leave off the agenda. Maybe you can progress those issues outside of the meeting.
Build your professional credibility and generate enthusiasm by sticking to the time limit.
6. Propose a process for addressing each agenda item
Different issues may require a different format for discussion or exploration and resolution. Process options include:
- Having one person speak about it
- Giving an audio/visual presentation
- Handing out information and generating feedback
- A mini-brainstorm session
- Small group discussion with feedback
- A question and answer session
Let the team know which process you’ll be using so they know what to expect.
7. Specify how members should prepare for the meeting
If you want the team to bring new ideas to the meeting be sure to directly ask them in advance. If they need to read some material, visit a website, listen to a podcast, or review sales results… let them know. This is closely related to item #1 on this list.
8. Identify who is responsible for leading each topic
When planning agenda items consider who would be best to take the lead when discussing each item. You, as the sales leader, may not always be the best person to take the lead. Why?
- Often team members will defer to the ‘boss’ and not give their honest opinion, or limit their input, or not present opposing viewpoints
- Others may have specialist knowledge that enables them to communicate the issue more succinctly, or with a greater level of authority/credibility than you
- It helps to cultivate future leaders by giving them the chance to ‘take the chair’ and be responsible for managing team interaction and reaching the desired outcome
Of course, always give the person advance warning of your request.
9. Make the first topic “Review and modify the agenda if needed”
Things always change. Sometimes overnight. So it makes sense to always start the sales meeting with a quick check to see if there are any changes, new items or modifications required for the agenda.
For example, maybe since the agenda was created:
- The person leading discussion on a particular topic has called in sick
- A new issue has developed that has a high priority
- A competitor has launched a new initiative that demands attention
Take a moment up front to review the meeting plan.
10. End the meeting with a plus/delta
There is no reason meetings cannot be an environment for continuous improvement. To that purpose you can ask two questions at the end of every meeting.
- What did we do well? (the plus)
- What can we do differently? (the delta, or change)
Over time minor adjustments can make huge improvements in the effectiveness of meetings. And the feeling of involvement and ownership from the team can also increase as a result of this plus/delta process.
And because most meetings rely on actions afterwards to be truly an effective use of time, your sales meetings should always end with a clear listing of which actions are required, any changes that are needed, and who is responsible for achieving each action or outcomes.
Image credit: Daniel Foster